Station Name: DARBY END HALT


[Source: Terry Callaghan]


Date opened: 21.8.1905
Location: North of Gawne Lane, opposite Stanhope Street
Company on opening: Great Western Railway
Date closed to passengers: 15.6.1964
Date closed completely: 15.6.1964
Company on closing: British Railways London Midland Region
Present state: Demolished
County: Staffordshire
OS Grid Ref: SO954876
Date of visit: 28 &29.8.2014
Notes: The West Midlands Railway (WMR) was formed on 14 June 1860 with the union of the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway (OW&WR) the Newport, Abergavenny & Hereford Railway (NA&HR) and the Worcester & Hereford Railway.

On 17 July 1862 the WMR Additional Works Act authorised the construction of two branches radiating from Old Hill. The first was to run in a northerly direction to Blowers Green Junction, near Dudley, and connect with the GWR’s Stourbridge Junction to Wolverhampton Low Level line. The second would run south to Halesowen with an end-on connection with the proposed Halesowen & Bromsgrove Branch Railway (HB&BR). On 1 August 1863 the WMR was amalgamated with the GWR: a shrewd move by the GWR as it would deny the LNWR access via Smethwick to Stourbridge and allow direct access to Birmingham. In the 1860s any trains from the Stourbridge direction for Birmingham had to travel via Dudley and reverse at Wolverhampton Low Level, substantially increasing the journey time.

The Old Hill to Blowers Green line, or the ‘Bumble Hole’ line as it was christened, was opened on 1 March 1878 by the GWR. The line became known as the Bumble Hole line as it passed through an area of that name close to Windmill End. Construction of the line had not been easy as the route took in heavily industrialised areas and would have to cross the Dudley Canal near Windmill End. Expenditure on bridges and earthworks to by-pass many of the mining activities was vast and would have probably bankrupted an independent company.

Darby End Halt was a later addition to the line, opening on 21 August 1905, with the GWR attempting to counter the threat of local omnibuses. The station stood on an embankment directly north of Gawne Lane, with a large established housing area to the west. Following normal Bradshaw practice, for many years the halt was acknowledged only as a footnote in the public timetable, which between Old Hill and Dudley included only Windmill End (prior to its demotion to a halt) and Dudley (South Side) in the ‘station bank’.

The halt comprised two wooden platforms capable of taking short trains, with a rudimentary waiting shelter being provided on both platforms. The platforms were constructed using old sleepers as supports and decking giving a very rough platform surface and appearance, with the platform shelters being of wooden frame construction clad in corrugated iron with a hipped corrugated iron roof of concave profile (popularly described as a GWR ‘Pagoda’ shelter). The roofs of the original shelters were subsequently replaced with a pitched corrugated iron roof due to extensive corrosion. Access to the down (Dudley direction) platform was via a short flight of steps opposite the junction between Gawne Lane and Stanhope Street. The up platform was reached from the opposite side of the overbridge on Gawne Lane and involved a steep flight of steps and ramp from road to platform level. Bradshaw’s July 1922 timetable shows there were 17 down (Old Hill to Dudley) and 20 up services calling at the halts along the line on Monday-to- Saturday with no Sunday service. The timetable also notes the line is operated by ‘Motor Cars of one class only’.

The line was renowned for its poor riding qualities owing to extensive mining activities in the area and the subsidence this caused. Passenger loadings along the line were never high enough to warrant anything more than the provision of a single GWR rail-motor or a Collet/Pannier tank engine and a single coach.

At the time of the Grouping, 1 January 1923, the line came under the control of the GWR and services continued much as they had for the previous 25 years. With nationalisation of the railways on 1 January 1948 the line fell under the control of British Railways Western Region who decided that the halts along it would require rebuilding, so from 1957 through to 1960 the halts from Old Hill High Street to Baptist End, inclusive, were rebuilt. At Darby End the wooden platform supports and surface were replaced with pre-cast concrete. The waiting shelters were rebuilt with pre-cast concrete supports clad with corrugated iron partially enclosed but giving little protection from the elements; a roof-cum-canopy projected over the platform. Oil lighting was also replaced with electric and totems were attached to the lighting columns, allowing the dilapidated GWR running-in boards to be removed.

A major revision of British Railways regional boundaries took place on 1 January 1963 when the Bumble Hole line was transferred to the London Midland Region (LMR). The ‘Beeching Report’ of March 1963 sounded the death knell for the passenger service with its withdrawal being recommended. As seen on other recently transferred lines in the area, the LMR had no sentimental attachment to former GWR routes. The official proposal to close the line was published on 2 August 1963 and on 30 April 1964 the Secretary of State for Transport gave his consent. The final service was scheduled for Saturday 13 June 1964, a little over a year after the initial recommendation, and the official date of closure was 15 June. Some stations along the line saw as little as one passenger a day. It is quite surprising that the station at Darby End was little used as it was within easy walking distance from the houses located to the west and was well served in both directions.

 In June 1964, the Wolverhampton Express & Star prepared an obituary of the Bumble Hole line passenger service.

Not many will mourn its passing, except maybe for pangs of nostalgia. It has had its day. But in the past there is no doubt that it provided a greater service for the community.

The paper went on to quote Guard Bishop of the 6.30pm from Dudley.

If we get one passenger on this particular train, that’s as many as we’ll ever get. We may get him twice a week and he usually gets off at Windmill End.


BR (LMR) prepared its own black bordered obituary for the line:-

Following the withdrawal of the passenger services, goods trains continued to use the line. Near Baptist End there was a junction to the Netherton Goods (formerly Withymoor basin branch until 1 August 1921) but this branch closed on 5 July 1965. The sparse remaining traffic lingered until 1 January 1968 when the line officially closed, the track being lifted shortly after.

Today the location of the station site is difficult to find as the embankment to the south of the station has been completely levelled. The remaining embankment section on which the station stood has been practically levelled, developed with some housing and enclosed within a wooded area. No trace of the station or the access remains.

Tickets from Michael Stewart, route map by Alan Young and Totem from Richard Furness.

Sources:

  • Bradshaw's July 1922 Railway Guide - David & Charles 1985
  • By Rail to Halesowen - Michael Hale & Ned Williams - Michael Hale Publishing 1974
  • Forgotten Railways: Volume 10 The West Midlands - Rex Christiansen - David St John Thomas Publisher 1985
  • A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain - Volume 7 The West Midlands - Rex Christiansen - David St John Thomas Publisher 1995
  • Lost Lines Birmingham & the Black Country - Nigel Welbourn - Ian Allan Publishing - 2002
  • Railway Passenger Station in Great Britain - A ChronologyMichael Quick - Railway & Canal Historical Society 2009

To see stations along the Bumble Hole click on the staiton name:

Old Hill High Street Halt , Windmill End Halt , & Baptist End Halt

See also:

Old Hill,
Netherton, Blowers Green & Dudley

A great image of the old and the new. The rough construction of the halt is evident, especially with the platform surfaces having been built using old sleepers; this contrasts sharply with the streamlined GWR/AEC Railcar standing in the Dudley direction platform in 1956.
Photo from the John Mann collection





The 1905 1:2500 scale OS map shows the close proximity of the halt to local housing; a market the GWR wished to tap into with the opening of the halt.


The 1914 six inch map gives a good impression of the industry that existed to the east of the halt.


The 1958 1:2500 map shows a change in not only of the name of Gill Street to Stanhope Street, but a development of the housing to larger detached properties. Powke Lane
has been renamed Gawne Lane.


The entrance ramp to the Old Hill direction platform seen in 1957; the construction of stations in general in the early part of the 20th Century had become much more basic in
comparison to the earlier Victorian period.
Photo from the John Mann collection


A great close up view of the building on the Dudley direction platfom in 1957. Corrosion of the walls of the building is evident with the roof having been replaced some years earlier due to the same problem. The cast iron GWR notice to the right of the window is certainly worthy of note and the terraced housing of Gill Street can be seen in the background.
Photo from the John Mann collection

Looking north from the top of the entrance steps at the rear of the Old Hill direction platform building in 1957. The rudimentary buildings and platforms were to be shortly swept away and replaced.
Photo from the John Mann collection


Looking east at the entrance from Powke Lane with the Mousesweet Brook bridge in the foreground during 1957. The flight of steps zig-zags up the embankment and on to the north end of the Dudley direction platform.
Photo from the John Mann collection



Looking north-west from what was Powke Lane at the steep flight of steps which formed the entrance to the Old Hill direction platform.
Photo from the John Mann collection


Looking south at the new Old Hill direction platform in the early 1960's. The pre-cast concrete platform surfaces were certainly an improvement on the original wooden sleepers. Gas lighting has also been installed on the platform and the station itself has a much more inviting appeal to potential travellers.
Photo from the John Mann collection


A rare colour shot of 64xx class 0-6-0PT Collet number 6434 departing Darby End heading south to Old Hill propelling one of the auto-trailers used on the services in the early 1960's. 6434 along with 6424 were regular traction for the services along with rail-cars in the latter years of passenger operations. The loco was shedded at Stourbridge Junction at this time and would be withdrawn from there during September 1963; being scrapped by Arnott Young of Avonmour Ironworks, Bilston during November 1964. A relatively short working life of just over 27 years having been outshopped from Swindon works in March 1937.
Photographer unknown


Looking north from the Dudley direction platform in the mid 1960's at the partially vandalised platform shelters; stations such as Darby End were vulnerable to such activities due to being unstaffed.
Photo by J L Smith


A bleak image of the halt in 1967 looking north towards Dudley following its closure.
Vandalism has taken its toll on the waiting shelter; the line itself had less
than 12 months of operation prior to fianl closure.
Photo by Christopher Capewell


The rusted remains of one of the British Railways Totem's attached to a concrete lighting colummn on the Dudley direction platform in 1967.

Photo by Christopher Capewell


Looking north from Gawne Lane on 29 August 2014. The high embankment on which the station stood has been demolished along with any trace of the overbridge.
Photo by Terry Callaghan


Looking
south on 29 August 2014 from the end of Bramble Close. All traces of a railway have been removed with the subsequent developments in the area.
Photo by Terry Callaghan


Looking north from a point mid way along the station site on 29 August 2014.
Photo by Terry Callaghan

 

 

 

[Source: Terry Callaghan]



Last updated: Wednesday, 17-May-2017 08:58:31 BST
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